A BluesPowR Year in Review

We couldn't let 2011 pass by without a quick recap of some of the year's biggest news and highlights. Thanks again for being here to share them with us, and here's wishing you a happy and prosperous New Year, living on blues power!

Most Memorable Concert Experience: We made it to several new festivals and venues this year in addition to returning to some of our favorite old haunts, and saw some pretty terrific acts almost everywhere we went. But the 2011 event we're bound to remember most vividly is this summer's inaugural Bluestock in Hunter, N.Y., not only for the music we heard from the likes of Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, Tommy Castro, Tab Benoit, Elvin Bishop, Curtis Salgado, Trombone Shorty, and others, but also for the weather that accompanied it, having taken place the last weekend of August during Tropical Storm Irene. While Manhattan and other more coastal areas of the state went relatively unscathed, Irene wasn't nearly so kind to the Catskills, stalling out over the region for the better part of the weekend and stranding many - ourselves included - atop the mountain for days with flooded towns and impassable roads, prompting festival organizers to add an "I Survived Hurricane Irene" icon to their post-event merchandise.  

Highlights of the festival musically included a "Hoochie Coochie Man/Nineteen Years Old/Love Her with a Feeling" medley from headliner Buddy Guy, Tab Benoit joining Friday night headliner Elvin Bishop for "Blues with a Feeling," and a performance from Tommy Castro's Legendary Rhythm & Blues Review that saw Castro and his band joined by Joe Louis Walker, Deanna Bogart, and Rick Estrin.

A few of our other favorite concert moments this year (in no particular order) were:
- the Tedeschi Trucks Band's (right) appearance at the Pittsburgh Blues Festival, which drew the event's largest crowd ever, from the opening "Space Captain" to the closing "Give It Up"
- Zac Harmon paying tribute to U.S. soldiers during the Heritage Music BluesFest (Wheeling, WV) with "Knocking on Heaven's Door," followed by U.K. bluesman Matt Schofield and his band with "Wrapped Up in Love" and New Orleans pianist Jon Cleary's encore number in Earl King's "Those Lonely, Lonely Nights"
- Joe Bonamassa (left) belting out tracks from his new Dust Bowl album at Oakland's Carnegie Music Hall
- the legendary Taj Mahal soaring on "Honey Bee" and an encore song of "Loving in My Baby's Eyes" during an August performance at the Carnegie Library Music Hall 
- Ana Popovic (right) with "One Room Country Shack" and other selections from her new album Unconditional at Pittsburgh's Hard Rock Cafe

Of course, not all of this year's most noteworthy performances required you be there in person. We weren't able to make it to New York this spring to witness the collaboration between jazz master Wynton Marsalis and multi-Rock Hall inductee Eric Clapton, but were pleased to learn of the program's availability on CD and DVD in the Blues Music Award-nominated Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton Play the Blues, where it's up against another pretty terrific DVD in Ana Popovic's Live at Trasimeno Lake.

Most Celebrated Artist: When it came to blues awards in 2011, no name was more heard than that of Buddy Guy's, whose honors included a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album, five Blues Music Awards (Album, Contemporary Album, B.B. King Entertainer of the Year, Contemporary Male Artist, and Song) and another five Living Blues awards (Male Artist, Guitarist, Live Performer, Best New Release, and Most Outstanding Blues Singer), in addition to three Blues Blast Music Awards (Contemporary Blues CD, Song, and Male Artist).

Also receiving a Grammy - in the Best Traditional Blues Album category (before the Academy decided to combine the two blues categories into a single Best Blues Album honor, as will be presented in February) - were Pinetop Perkins and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith for their Joined at the Hip collaboration, which also earned them wins in the same category at both this year's Blues Music Awards and Blues Blast awards. Sadly, the duo didn't have long to relish the Grammy win, with both Pinetop and Big Eyes moving on to a better place within months, joined in death by Hubert Sumlin, David "Honeyboy" Edwards, George "Mojo" Buford, Gary Moore, and Doyle Bramhall during the past year.
In other awards news, guitar slinger Freddie King (right) was announced as a 2012 inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Pittsburgh native and Earwig Records founder Michael Frank received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Blues Blast magazine,  and Ronald O. from Stockton, California, was the winner of our own Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton Play the Blues CD/DVD giveaway contest.

Most Impressive Discovery, Local
California girl-returned-home Melinda

Most Impressive Discovery, International: Bernard Allison's Live at the Jazzhaus, recorded in Freiburg, Germany

Favorite Albums (again, in no particular order):
Ana Popovic - Unconditional
Johnny Winter - Roots
Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton Play the Blues
Diunna Greenleaf - Trying to Hold On
Louisiana Red - Memphis Mojo
Kenny Wayne Shepherd - How I Go
Tedeschi Trucks Band - Revelator
Chicago Blues: A Living History - The (R)evolution Continues
Joe Bonamassa - Dust Bowl
Rob Blaine
- Big Otis Blues
Matt Schofield - Anything But Time
Sean Costello - At His Best: Live
Gregg Allman - Low Country Blues

Of course, 2011 was another busy year for our blog, as we launched our new Facebook page, were named a finalist in a Most Valuable Blog contest, and presented this interview with U.K. guitarist Matt Schofield (right), in addition to our ongoing album reviews and coverage of shows. Fortunately for us, it doesn't appear that things are slowing down for the blues in 2012, with new albums expected soon from the likes of Joe Louis WalkerGary Clark Jr., Curtis Salgado, the Mannish Boys, and new Severn Records acts Mud MorganfieldThe Fabulous Thunderbirds, and The Nighthawks, to name just a few.

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